Rebrand versus Brand Refresh & When to Do Which


Read Time: 7 Min

Sometimes, with a couple of extra jackets and a few new pairs of pants, your wardrobe can find new life. But sometimes no amount of mall visits or online shopping sprees can fix the mess.

Both scenarios can be true, and neither is uncommon. (You can probably guess we aren’t really talking about your closet here.)

Brands work the same way. Sometimes they need a little hand-holding, sometimes they need a clean slate. It’s important that either way, your final brand identity looks and feels the most reflective of your business. After all, like your clothing, your brand is the most vulnerable outward expression of who you are.

Why do anything?

Brands need to evolve, otherwise, they’ll become outdated or worse, irrelevant. People will forget about them and move on to something more fresh, bold, and new. If you’ve hit a slump in sales, or you aren’t being recognized for services in your area, it’s more risky for you to do nothing than attempt to make a change.
But it’s crucial to know when a refresh is good enough, or when you need an entire brand overhaul — the decision has big differences in time, money, and people involved.

Let’s Talk Refresh

Before you overhaul your closet and start from scratch, it’s always best to start with a donation pile and a trip to the mall — it may be salvageable! Rebranding involves substantial changes to your positioning, values, guidelines, mission and vision, logo, look and feel, etc. This route can be expensive and time-consuming. Sometimes clients come to us with a really solid foundation, it’s just been a few years and needs a nice change. In this case, a refresh will help keep your existing brand intact, infuse it with new vitality, and allow you to expand your reach.

You might need a brand refresh if:

  • You know your current brand is outdated. (Think Apple and the rainbow logo).
  • You’ve made some changes. (Not huge, but enough to need some tweaks).
  • You haven’t settled. (Maybe you’ve used several different colors in the past, time to choose).
  • Your audience has changed. (New people, adjusted approach).
  • You’ve grown or are growing. (As your reach expands, so should your brand).

Let’s talk about our work on Koelbel & Company

Koelbel Co. Logo before and after

Koelbel & Company is a local legacy in Colorado — a cornerstone of the Denver real estate scene. They’ve been around for decades providing local areas with urban homes, custom communities, and mountain communities through planning, developing, and building. They were coming up on their 70th anniversary and knew they needed to make a change to celebrate such a milestone in their history. Because they are so established in the community and have such a great foundation of legacy, community, and expertise backing them up, it was an easy decision for us to take their existing logo and give it a lift, rather than take it in a whole new direction.

As you can see, minor adjustments and color changes take this logo from the past, into the future, and ready Koelbel for the next phase of their impact on the community. We then took the new look, and brought it through to every aspect of their company:

Koelbel Co. Brand architecture visuals

Once we decide to provide a client with a brand refresh, or if the client comes to us knowing they want one, we run through a pretty standard check-list:

  • Research + Competitive Analysis
  • Logo Lift
  • Messaging Refresh
  • Website + Content Audit and Optimization (Considering Refreshed Messaging)
  • Execution with a Long-Term Implementation Plan

As you can see in the case of Koelbel, a brand refresh doesn’t have to be dramatic. It can simply be a cosmetic lift to bring your brand into today. Over the years we’ve seen our favorite brands do the same thing: Apple, Walmart, Starbucks, UPS, etc.

Overall, a refresh is a great option for your brand if you aren’t ready or aren’t in need of the overhaul involved in a rebrand.

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The Drama of a Rebrand

Occasionally it is necessary to completely rethink your brand strategy in order to reflect your future goals and to ensure the success of your company’s future. The decision isn’t a light one since it does involve more money, time, and people. A few reasons why you might decide to embark on a rebrand:

  • You have new services or products. With this addition, a rebrand may help boost sales or interest in your new products, as well as better reflect where your business is headed.
  • Your current brand is out of date. This is a similar reason to do a refresh, but maybe it’s so out of date it doesn’t reflect who you are anymore — time for a rebrand!
  • Your competition is getting ahead. Time to step up!
  • New audiences. If your audience is changing and you may need to rebrand in order to appeal to the new demographic.

The main goal of a rebrand is typically to influence the perception the current or future target audience has of a product. For example, prior to 2010, Old Spice was regarded as a product for older people — an uninteresting brand stuck in the past and unable to keep up with the changes associated with a new millennium. They needed a change. Aside from their name, they did just that — everything down to their positioning and logos changed in some capacity to appeal more to a younger audience, and it worked.

If your business is having an identity crisis, make a change — a dramatic one.

The process looks a little something like this:

  • Lots and lots of research.
  • Figuring out your ‘why.’
  • Defining what sets you apart from your competitors.
  • Updating all your messaging, from positioning to tone/voice.
  • Creating your new brand structure and identity.
  • Building the brand (logos, advertisements, other communications)
  • Implementation of a brand awareness strategy.

Let’s take a look at our work with The Calo:

The Calo Logos old and new


Our clients, MetLife and Greystar, came to us with a vision — they wanted to rebrand an existing apartment building in Sandy, Utah and position it as more than just an apartment complex, but a community. We took what was ‘The East VIllage’ and turned it into ‘The Calo.’ This rebrand was 1000% from scratch, meaning not only was branding and messaging new, we also re-named the complex and developed a whole new story to accompany the name.

If you’re interested in our rationale behind the name, check out our full case study here.

As you can see in the visuals above, this rebrand was dramatic. From color palette to logo, all the way to the font, everything about The Calo’s brand is very different from where it was before. This rebrand allowed Greystar and MetLife to cater to a different audience and position themselves ahead of their competitors in the area. It gives the apartment community a refreshing look and starts a narrative that can be woven into every aspect of their marketing.


brand messaging story for the calo, an apartment complex


Which is for you?

A brand has to change eventually.

As the world changes and your company changes, it is inevitable that a time will come when your business or organization needs to rethink your brand — just like Koelbel and RevGen.

However, the extent of the change is up to you.

Remember that closet we talked about earlier?

If the foundation is there, a few donated items and a quick trip to the mall are all you need to get your wardrobe up-to-date.

If your style has changed, a complete overhaul from shoes to tops is in order.

Think deeply about your vulnerable outward appearance, what you are saying to your audience, and what your audience says about you.

We love working with brands (not to brag but we’re pretty good at it). Let us know if any of what we just talked about sounds like something your company needs to do, we’re happy to help.

Take a look at some of our other work as well.


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